The Research and Evaluation Unit
The Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) is a neutral forum that helps stakeholders collaborate and addresses important civic issues while simultaneously producing knowledge that is useful to the field and stakeholders engaged. Through its collaborative governance, dispute resolution and deliberative democracy programs and projects, MOPC facilitates knowledge discovery, learning, and action relevant to civic issues and problems.
As a free-standing institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) is committed to improving the quality of its collaborative governance, dispute resolution and deliberative democracy processes by expanding and deepening scholarship in these fields.
University-based institutions like MOPC that have a practice as well as a research function often have to balance research goals with practice goals. At MOPC, this is achieved through the grounding of our research on the values of our public mandate. MOPC also address the practitioner-clinician dichotomy, found particularly in organizations with a mature practice and an emerging research mandate, through the use of practice-based research. This way, MOPC can generate knowledge on vital issues found in complex adaptive systemsi like government or civil society and help address the wicked problemsii these systems face through our practice of collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution. The research and knowledge that MOPC generates as a result of its practice is sought by policymakers, legislators, academics, students and others. MOPC’s practice-based research draws upon a broad range of both quantitative and qualitative modes of inquiry.
These four major elements guide MOPC’s research program:
- Rigorous, reflective, evaluation and practice-based research in the fields of collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution.
- Embedded research within large programs and projects to enable practice research.
- Alignment of MOPC research with the public service mission of the University of Massachusetts Boston.
- Linking research with major, statewide service initiatives.
In addition to pursuing MOPC’s own research aspirations, the organization seeks to be a gateway for students, academics, practitioner-researchers and others wishing to gain access to MOPC’s practice in the fields of collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution. MOPC is eager to leverage its relationships with professional and volunteer practitioners in the Commonwealth in the interest of contributing to the body of shared knowledge on collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution.
MOPC utilizes monitoring and evaluation to ensure learning and accountability. Increasingly, sponsors and funders are demanding evidence of cost effectiveness and long-term impacts of collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution. Professional practitioner bodies and organizations are also emphasizing the systematic measurement of programmatic ‘successes’. These demands, combined with the complex nature of collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution interventions are resulting in greater demand for the demonstration of programmatic and institutional impact.
MOPC uses evaluation for assessing implementation and impact of key programs and projects. These include mediation, collaborative governance and public engagement projects and programs. Surveys are administered to sponsors, collaborative practitioners, members of the public and other stakeholders involved in the projects and programs wherever possible to systematically collect implementation and impact data. Feedback from these surveys is analyzed and substantiated with other research methods and disseminated in evaluation reports and research documents.
Demonstration of impact assists MOPC in securing/leveraging both public and private sponsorships/funding that enables the delivery of services and expansion of practice. Application of the latest knowledge in monitoring and evaluation assists MOPC’s institutional development, institutional planning and visioning. Evaluation leads to high quality research, reflective practice, dissemination of best practices and the development of a community of practice in the area of collaborative governance, deliberative democracy and dispute resolution.
Jeghelian, S., Palihapitiya, M., & Eisenkraft, K. (October 2011). Legislative Study: A framework to strengthen Massachusetts community mediation as a cost-effective public service. MOPC, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution, University of Massachusetts Boston. (2006, January). Research-informed models for communicating the value of court-connected alternative dispute resolution for public funding: Working paper. Boston, MA: Dye, K.
Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution & Public Collaboration, University of Massachusetts Boston. (2009, May 30). Process evaluation report: EOHHS interagency visioning sessions. Boston, MA.
Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution & Public Collaboration, University of Massachusetts Boston. (2009, October 15). Legislative hearing on MA foreclosure mediation program bills: Written testimony to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Boston, MA: Jeghelian, S. & Palihapitiya, M.
Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution & Public Collaboration, University of Massachusetts Boston. (n.d.). Democracy in practice: Lessons from New England. Boston, MA: Palihapitiya, M. & Dye, K.
Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, University of Massachusetts Boston. (2010, September 30). Forest futures visioning process: Evaluation report. Boston, MA.
Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, University of Massachusetts Boston. (2011, January). Longfellow Bridge Task Force process evaluation report. Boston, MA.
Palihapitiya, M., & Eisenkraft, K. (February 2013). A Study for the Design and Administration of a Successful Foreclosure Mediation Program in Massachusetts. MOPC, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Research & Evaluation Unit contact:
Madhawa “Mads” Palihapitiya, Associate Director
Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC)
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard, M-1-627
Boston, MA 02125
Telephone: (617) 287-4036; Fax: (617) 287-4049
iComplex adaptive systems (CAS) are systems that have a large numbers of components, often called agents, that interact and adapt or learn as they interact, which are at the heart of important contemporary problems. A few examples of CAS would include ecosystem management, economy, human growth, governance, global trade etc. as defined in Holland, J. H. (2006). Studying complex adaptive systems. Journal of systems science and complexity 19 (1): 1-8. http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/41486
iiWicked problems are complex, long-term social and organizational planning problems as defined in Ritchey, T. (2011). Wicked problems - social messes: Decision support modelling with morphological analysis. Berlin: Springer.